The Records Continuum
A 1930’s records management concept was the ‘records lifecycle’; where separate decisions about what should happen to a record occurred when it was created, accessed and then disposed of has recently been updated as a ‘continuum’. The upshot of the theory suggests significant efficiencies can be made if all those decisions are made when the content is declared in the system.
Getting this enabled on your intranet could be as easy as adding another document metadata field asking when to delete the document (perhaps with a fibonnacci scale drop down menu). With intranets increasingly opening up permissions, can you trust your authors and uploaders to fill this in dispassionately though? You best bet is to offer an editable default.
Disposing of Content by Class
To arrive at an intelligent default, however, requires some thought. You will need to take a site map, specify a default for the entire file plan, then edit that up or down depending on the headings. You choice at the top level should cascade down the hierarchy or tagging system.
Once you have a default for the major headings – and some will definately be ‘archive’ while others might be ‘delete after seven years’, it is time to build a workflow into your content management system.
Many content management systems offer functionality where you can apply rules to documents.
We might start off with a default workflow for general content whereby, after five years of a piece of content remaining ‘inactive’ (it has remained unused for (a) its active lifespan and (b) has wallowed in a state of inactivity for five years) a decision needs to be made to delete, keep inactive for a further period, or keep it permanently in an archive.
In summary, if our workflow is as follows:
- Automatically inactivate after [defined period] of non-use
- Based on [content class] automatically [delete/review/archive] it after [defined period]
There will come a point in the future when a decision needs to be made to either buy another server to store all the inactive content or to delete it. There are two options here; one is to sort the content by size and delete old really large documents – generally media files – that will never bear fruit for future researchers. This can be a quick way to free up a large amount of space for new documents coming in, but lacks a certain finesse. Best practice would advise we delete content from its inactive state by class. So information that helps staff win work, but that is fifteen years old, is unlikely to be of use to staff wanting to win work now, and as long as there is one set of winning work content available in the archive, having further evidence of how staff won work thirty years ago will be of little use to future researchers.